The Japanese voice of Naruto belongs to a perky, petite lady who in real life sounds nothing like the rough-and-rambunctious teenage hero she portrays behind a microphone. We were able to sit down with Takeuchi for a few minutes and interview her one-on-one about her role, her experiences in the U.S., and a few other things:
Q: Was this your first visit to the United States?
Junko Takeuchi: This is actually my second time.
Q: When was your first time?
Junko Takeuchi: I first visited New York about four or five years ago, as a private vacation. This is the first time I’m doing anything here industry-related.
Q: So this has been your first really big exposure to the American Naruto fanbase.
Junko Takeuchi: It was my first time, so I was quite shocked! In a good way!
Q: What kinds of differences and similarities do you see between American and Japanese fans, based on what you’ve seen so far?
Junko Takeuchi: Everyone’s very nice to me. There’s no difference between any fan from anywhere in terms of that. I have to say that, just like you saw at the panel, there are fans in Japan who will call out to me at an event: “Junko! Can you say such-and-such in Naruto’s voice?” Or, “Hey, I love you!” So it was interesting to see how that’s not any different here. But I would say a really big difference I noticed is that American audiences applaud louder and more frequently. That was really heartwarming!
[I pointed out American voice actors often get the same treatment as well.]
Well, that makes me even happier, that they didn’t treat me any differently!
Q: When you were first applying for the role of Naruto, was there a lot of competition, or were you hand-picked for the role?
Junko Takeuchi: I auditioned.
Q: Do you have any idea what the scope of the competition was?
Junko Takeuchi: There were a whole lot of people. And in fact, during the first couple of rounds, they were originally planning to cast a male voice actor for Naruto. So no women had actually auditioned initially. And it was only during the second big round that they started accepting applications from voice actresses.
Q: From what I’ve seen, it seems pretty standard for a female voice actor to be used for a young male role?
Junko Takeuchi: Well, actually, when I first read the manga, before I even imagined getting the role, I had a male actor’s voice in mind for Naruto. So I was actually shocked when I got the role! This is something I only just found out last night myself, but in the world of Naruto, there are only three boys’ roles that are voiced by female voice actors. The rest are all done by men. The three voices are Naruto, Konohamaru—the grandson of the Hokage—and Haku. Only those three male roles are voiced by women. And it’s not that unusual. Maybe it’s just coincidence?
Q: What’s it been like to watch Naruto grow up onscreen over the past ten years? And were you given specific direction on how to shape that growth?
Junko Takeuchi: I definitely think Naruto has matured as an individual, very much so. And I would personally like to hope that since I’ve been playing this role all ten years, that I’ve matured as well! I have to say, though, during all those ten years, there’s never been a point at which the director and I sat down and he said “Well, at this point I want you to do this…” Never. From what I see, the way boys mature, it’s not in slow gradual steps, it’s in leaps and bounds. I also personally feel it was better to not having planned that stage, but to just go with the flow.